Deasy slams teachers unions, speaks of regrets

John E. Deasy
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

Days after stepping down as Los Angeles schools chief, John Deasy acknowledged he should have worked harder to improve relations with the school board but also criticized the teachers union for making it difficult to improve the district.

Deasy resigned Wednesday after a rocky 3½-year stint as superintendent, where he recently clashed with the Los Angeles Board of Education and weathered sharp criticism from a newly aggressive and confrontational United Teachers Los Angeles. Deasy’s critics, among them board members and union officials, deemed him uncommunicative and autocratic.

“I wish I could have found a better balance between my feeling of urgency and the ability to have built a more unified will to move quickly to do that,” Deasy said in an interview with reporters.


Deasy said that many attacks and criticisms were frequently not based in fact and that well-funded teaches unions have often put adults before children. He said his efforts to improve district schools, sometimes at the expense of teacher job protections, have made him a target from the union.

Children are “voiceless and defenseless,” Deasy said. “My concern is that youths’ well-being be paramount and that their rights come first. Quite frankly, that’s the only reason we open our doors when we begin work in public education.”

Deasy’s resignation could lead to the scaling back or elimination of some of his signature policies, some of which were regarded as trailblazers nationally but which United Teachers Los Angeles has signaled it will push to shift.

Among them, a teacher evaluation system, stricter bars for gaining tenure, a classroom breakfast program and a stronger embrace of alternatives to turn around struggling schools — including charter schools and the complete replacement of staff.

“All the policies could be at risk. I think that would be a shame for youth since I think there is unquestionable and unassailable information on how well students have done,” Deasy said. “I hope that isn’t the case, but on the other hand, there is zero that I can do about that.”

Deasy also added that he is considering several other lines of work, including working within the youth criminal justice system, working to develop and support superintendents or a possible run for public office.


Deasy insisted that the rocky rollout of his effort to provide all students with an iPad did not lead to his resignation. He also said his departure had nothing to do with a new student records system that caused problems across the school district.

For education-related news, follow @stephenceasar